chanel: 59 posts

Revolutionary Perfume : A Brief History of Chypre

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1917 was the year when the Bolshevik Revolution took place. It was also the year when another revolution happened. It wasn’t bloody, its scale was small, but for the history of perfumery it was as galvanizing as the events in Russia for the rest of the world. This revolution was the creation of Chypre by François Coty. The name Chypre referred to the island of Cyprus, which had been famous for its fragrant moss since antiquity, and while chypre-style fragrances, warm and moss-laden, were popular long before Coty’s creation, his Chypre of 1917 was different.

For one thing, Coty wasn’t afraid of making bold statements. To give a heavy note of oakmoss radiance, he used a novel aroma-chemical called isobutyl quinoline. Pure, it smelled pungently of leather and burned rubber, but when used as part of an accord with bergamot, dry woods and moss, its effect became sensual and luminous. Coty then increased the proportion of green notes and added a delicate floral twist. Chypre evoked the Mediterranean sea breeze and lemon orchards and reminded you that even on the most sunlit of days, shadows are present. Dark leather and inky moss provided the dramatic contrast in his composition.

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My Three Classics : Introduction to Classical Perfumery

Who is afraid of perfume classics? Classical perfumery often elicits two different reactions. There are those who worship at the altar of Guerlain Mitsouko and define the tastes of others by their reactions to Jean Patou Joy or Chanel No 5. Frankly, if Joy were the last perfume available in this world, I wouldn’t wear it, and I enjoy No 5 more on others than on myself. But this is not the point. Classics weren’t created the way perfumes are today–they weren’t meant to be crowd pleasers, they weren’t tested on groups of women from New Jersey* to determine their appeal. They reflect their time and place, and it’s perfectly fine to decide that one doesn’t care for Mitsouko or Hermès Calèche.

And then there are those who think that classics are old-fashioned, outdated or simply too difficult to wear. I agree that classics mirror their time and fashion bubble, but that can be their very appeal to some. Dismissing classics altogether is also a mistake, because this style of fragrance is still current and exploring it can be enjoyable. For instance, expensive niche lines like Tom Ford are known to be inspired–and strongly at that–by classics.  So, one could pay  niche prices or find a similar perfume among the more affordably priced lines.

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Chanel No 5 Body Cream : Between Silk Sheets with Marilyn Monroe

“I know what we need. We need a bed, and we need white silk sheets – they must be silk. Frank Sinatra records, and Dom Pérignon champagne.” When the young photographer Douglas Kirkland arrived to photograph Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine, he had no idea what to expect when meeting a mega star. Least of all did he expect silk sheets and champagne. In his book, With Marilyn: An Evening/1961, he described the photo shoot and shares the images he took. I can’t think of another photographer who captured better Monroe’s vulnerability and sensuality. It’s almost paradoxical. Even in the moments when she looks surrendered, she’s in control.

Monroe was known to say that she wore to bed nothing but a few drops of Chanel No 5. Although I’ve known this for a long time, I always found it hard to associate No 5 and Monroe. No 5, though elegant and beautiful, struck me as uptight and austere. Monroe, with her voluptuous beauty, fragility and intensity, somehow seemed to belong to another universe.

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My Name is Red : Chanel Rouge Allure Ink and Guerlain Nahema

“I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted… Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me.” Orhan Pamuk’s description of my favorite color in My Name is Red has stayed with me ever since I first read the book, and I often think of it whenever I see another red that draws my attention–fabric, autumnal leaves, lipstick, the lacquer of Japanese bowls or perfume. Yes, perfume can also be red.

The impression of red in fragrance is subjective the way synesthesia tends to be, but Guerlain Nahema is a perfume that makes me feel as if I’m enveloped in layers of crimson silk. The effect comes from the combination of rose essence and the damascones, aroma-materials with the aroma of rose jam and stewed apples. This accord alone has a lipstick red hue, but paradoxically it comes across as even more saturated against the background of green citrus and hyacinth. Reds often stand out best against contrasting colors, and this is the case with Nahema.

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On the Japanese Incense Trail with a Paris Detour

I’m sitting in front of smoldering joss sticks trying to determine whether they smell of the milky sweetness of sandalwood or the raspy sharpness of cedar. A young woman with a glossy black bob lights one stick after another, blowing each out with a gentle wave of her hand. I’m unused to kneeling for so long, and I feel the crunch of tatami mats through my thin wool trousers. The back of my head throbs slightly from jet lag, and I am being overwhelmed by the size of Tokyo and the strain of trying to remember Japanese covered by layers of other languages I’ve learned since my university days. I also feel anxious that I may not be able to guess the scents correctly, but then I remember my perfumery teacher’s words “don’t think, just smell,” and I let myself go.

I’m inside a Shoyeido incense store hidden in the elegant Aoyama district of Tokyo. Nearby are the glittering avenues of Harajuku, lined with fashion boutiques and populated by some of the most stylish people on the planet, but inside the earth toned store, there is only serenity and incense.

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